22 April 2010

Chasing pigs and making yoghurt

A short blog post in our recent trend of micro-blogging. Usually, the little things that fill up the day are the things that get left out. So here are some of the things that occupied us this week.

Things we did this week. We:
  • walked to the farmland behind the agricultural school and picked 3 cucumbers off the prickly vines
  • cleaned dog puke off our favorite woven floor mat (a mat that can be wrapped around the waist and worn to a Tongan funeral)
  • wrote lesson plans and tests for our classes
  • wrote a 52-page school academic, HR, and financial policy document for the agricultural school so that they can get accredited from the Tongan government (triumph picture shown)

  • made yoghurt from the milk of the cows in our yard
  • practiced with the student and staff choir for performance day for the ag school’s 40th anniversary in June
  • chased a horde of about 40 identical little piglets from their burrowing efforts in our yard (this must be their father pig)
  • removed tenacious viruses from the highschool computers and lamented the fact that in Tonga, a flash drive = Typhoid Mary
  • collected rain water from our gutter spout in front of our front door from rain that was so hard it filled up a pitcher in 4 seconds
  • missed friends in the US as we read letters and enjoyed packages
  • wrote a tentative subject list for management and computer skills workshop sessions that we might lead with school administrators next year
  • watched 4 movies, including the extended Lord of the Rings
  • confirmed the final step in getting a computing network set up in the agricultural schools’ computer lab (outside of the lab is the picture below)
  • watched our quickly-growing little orange cat scuttle sideways across our floor on his tiptoes and pounce on our dog

We tend to talk a lot about cows, because that's what we see out of at least 3 of the 4 sides of our house. But to expound upon the making yoghurt theme, several of our visitors from the mainland have been pretty interested in the dairy at Hango. To get from cow to yoghurt on our cereal, here is the process. Hango has about 70 dairy cows that mill around in one or more of the grass fields around the school and periodically are followed around by their tiny, awkward calves. They yell at night when the dairy manager separates the calves when they get old enough, sounding like a person yelling "AHHHH.... AAAAAH....AAAAAAH." Every morning, four students walk around the field at dawn, whistling and gathering the cows into our roofless milking shed. It used to have a milking machine and a roof, but then a hurricane happened.

The students hand-milk all the cows, and gather the milk in large metal milk jugs about half a person high, and load them onto the school's flatbed truck. They then drive around calling "milk! milk!" and anyone who wants any waves them down and supplies them with money and an empty jug for them to fill up. Once it is in our possession, we pour it into three large jars and put them in a big pot to boil in order to pasteurize it, and then save some for drinking, and some for yoghurt making. In short, we put a couple of spoonfulls of yoghurt into the warm milk, and keep it warm for 8 hours. Then voila, the next morning we have milk for our tea and yoghurt for our cereal.

13 April 2010

A trip to town in pictures

What does it look like when we go shopping for groceries? Sometimes the most menial tasks can reveal the most about a place.

We head out our door, leaving our dog behind to hang out with the cows in our yard; slipping on our black flip-flops, or silipas, we head out toward town.

In order to get to the main town, we cross a small ravine that fills up with a stream when it rains hard. Fortunately, it's been passable lately, allowing us to cut down and across and saving us 20 minutes of walking around the long way.

Looking back across the ravine in this picture, you can see the tall pines that surround my school and our house.

This dirt road starts at the end of the ravine path, which we walk up to get to several of the small shops in town. I'm carrying a trusty tote bag to carry everything back.

I'm also enjoying the luxury of wearing short sleeves and a "short" skirt (not ankle-length) because during errands, you can be more casual.

We forego one of the Chinese shops (in this picture) in favor of the only Tongan-owned shop. The door to the shop in the picture is right next to the van.

Next, we check "The American store" as we call it, because the owner gets frequent shipments of random goods from relatives overseas. We once scored real scrubber sponges, oatmeal, and unsweetened peanut butter there.

After finding what we can find at the small stores, we head to the market, but since it's not harvest season yet, all we can find are sad-looking piles of green bananas. During peak season, they have cabbage, tomatoes, and sometimes cucumbers.

Our last stop is the big Chinese store near the harbour.

Inside is a regular-sized grocery store with aisles of odd assortments of tinned fish, bags of flour, fresh bread, and laundry soap.

On our way back home, we pass by several typical in-town Tongan houses.

...and finally stop to look out across the water. The shadow in the distance is the main island of Tongatapu.
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